Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Videos

Happy Birthday to Howard Jones ("Hide and Seek" at Live Aid in 1985, from Wembley Stadium)...



...Happy Birthday also to Brad Whitford of Aerosmith ("Milk Cow Blues" from "Aerosmith Unplugged" - not quite sure what happened at the very end there)...



...Breaking Benjamin ("Breath" - a neat little homemade video with photos of the band and the song coming through really well)...



...and now for something completely different, as those zany Englishmen used to say, and that's "Meet The Press For Idiots" with Conan O'Brien (keep the volume loud; by the way, a belated happy birthday to Ted Kennedy).

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (2/23/07)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

House

Iraq troop increase. The House adopted, 246-182, and sent to the Senate a nonbinding measure (H Con Res 63) opposing President Bush's decision to add 21,500 combat troops to Iraq and pledging congressional support of troops deployed there as well as veterans of the war.

A yes vote was to pass the resolution.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).

Voting no: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Not voting: Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.).
As great as it is that this resolution passed so decisively, I have to throw cold water on this even though I hate to do so and link to this post by Prof. Marcus regarding Iraq, where Bushco (and Billion Dollar Cheney in particular) wants us to stay for years and years regardless of any resolution or anything anyone has to say.

We should hound our politicians on this and make all the noise that we can until the tide eventually turns, and the more shrill, the better.

Tax breaks, minimum wage. The House approved, 360-45, business tax breaks worth $1.8 billion over 10 years, a key step toward forging a congressional compromise on increasing the minimum wage from the current $5.15 to $7.25 over two years. The measure (HR 2) now goes to conference with the Senate.

A yes vote was to approve the tax breaks.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, Murphy, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Not voting: LoBiondo.
I hate this, but the minimum wage bill has no shot at passing without it. However, this should be the only accommodation to the Repugs – if they come back with any more favors for their handlers in the corpocracy, then tell them to drop dead. If we have to, we’ll get this done the right way after ’08 when more of those Repug Senate clowns are booted because they’re tethered to Dubya and company on Iraq.

Senate

2007 budget. Voting 81-15, the Senate gave final congressional approval to $463.5 billion in fiscal 2007 appropriations for departments and agencies lacking regular annual budgets. The measure (HJ Res 20) keeps most spending at 2006 levels but increases spending for such programs as veterans' health care, housing subsidies and Pell Grants for needy college students, and for such agencies as the FBI, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

A yes vote was to pass the budget resolution.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey Jr. (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Not voting: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.).
And as you can see, the Senate has been too busy trying to derail the work of the first 100 hours of the House to do much else.

The Inquirer reported that Congress is now officially in recess until Feb. 26.

Must-See Torture T.V.

I’ve never seen the T.V. program “24.” I’ve never had a desire to. And I certainly don’t wish to start now and, assuming I had any wish to help anything whatsoever to do with Rupert Murdoch (and by the way, I never heard from Bob Casey or Patrick Murphy regarding my letter to try and revoke Murdoch’s U.S. citizenship – I know it was a long shot, but I did what I could).

I’m mentioning this now because of Jane Mayer’s recent article about the show that appeared in The New Yorker. I knew the writer and this publication would give me a thorough education on this show and any related background information short of actually watching it.

And to be fair, I guess I should discuss some of my T.V. viewing habits, to the extent that I have any.

I watch very little cable T.V. and virtually no network T.V., mainly because of time constraints and child indulgence but also because I have no wish to partake in recycled cop shows, hospital dramas or “reality” television. Sometimes we’ll watch “What Not To Wear” after the young one has exhausted us for the day (yeah, not something I guess I should admit being a guy, but file it under “keeping the peace”), “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” or something else on the History or Discovery Channels, but that doesn’t happen very often.

Partly for these reasons (but for others I will note shortly), I refuse to make “24” part of my life.

This show is the creation of Joel Surnow, somebody who apparently scuffled along in and out of Hollywood for awhile as a peripheral character of sorts before he hit it big with this show. Congratulations (and by the way, I think this picture from the magazine article speaks volumes about this guy).

As Mayer notes…

The series, Surnow told me, is “ripped out of the Zeitgeist of what people’s fears are—their paranoia that we’re going to be attacked,” and it “makes people look at what we’re dealing with” in terms of threats to national security. “There are not a lot of measures short of extreme measures that will get it done,” he said, adding, “America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer (the show’s protagonist of a sort played by Kiefer Sutherland - pictured). He’s a patriot.”

For all its fictional liberties, “24” depicts the fight against Islamist extremism much as the Bush Administration has defined it: as an all-consuming struggle for America’s survival that demands the toughest of tactics. Not long after September 11th, Vice-President Dick Cheney alluded vaguely to the fact that America must begin working through the “dark side” in countering terrorism.
And “Deadeye Dick” would know all about “the dark side,” wouldn’t he? And part of that in the show’s universe includes torture, or, as stated in the article, “suspects are beaten, suffocated, electrocuted, drugged, assaulted with knives, or more exotically abused; almost without fail, these suspects divulge critical secrets.”

On “24,” the dark side is on full view. Surnow, who has jokingly called himself a “right-wing nut job,” shares his show’s hard-line perspective. Speaking of torture, he said, “Isn’t it obvious that if there was a nuke in New York City that was about to blow—or any other city in this country—that, even if you were going to go to jail, it would be the right thing to do?”
It looks like Surnow has done a good job of capitalizing on the fact that, to me, this country suffered a nervous breakdown on September 11th, resulting in a festival of lizard-brained paranoia that has brought us the Iraq war, the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and this television program.

As Mayer notes further…

Since September 11th, depictions of torture have become much more common on American television. Before the attacks, fewer than four acts of torture appeared on prime-time television each year, according to Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization. Now there are more than a hundred, and, as David Danzig, a project director at Human Rights First, noted, “the torturers have changed. It used to be almost exclusively the villains who tortured. Today, torture is often perpetrated by the heroes.” The Parents’ Television Council, a nonpartisan watchdog group, has counted what it says are sixty-seven torture scenes during the first five seasons of “24”—more than one every other show. Melissa Caldwell, the council’s senior director of programs, said, “ ‘24’ is the worst offender on television: the most frequent, most graphic, and the leader in the trend of showing the protagonists using torture.”

The show’s villains usually inflict the more gruesome tortures: their victims are hung on hooks, like carcasses in a butcher shop; poked with smoking-hot scalpels; or abraded with sanding machines. In many episodes, however, heroic American officials act as tormentors, even though torture is illegal under U.S. law. (The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which took on the force of federal law when it was ratified by the Senate in 1994, specifies that “no exceptional circumstances, whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”)
And how do “those weak-kneed liberals” on the show result to all of this alpha-male, testosterone-infused activity?

Throughout the series, secondary characters raise moral objections to abusive interrogation tactics. Yet the show never engages in a serious dialogue on the subject. Nobody argues that torture doesn’t work, or that it undermines America’s foreign-policy strategy. Instead, the doubters tend to be softhearted dupes. A tremulous liberal, who defends a Middle Eastern neighbor from vigilantism, is killed when the neighbor turns out to be a terrorist. When a civil-liberties-minded lawyer makes a high-toned argument to a Presidential aide against unwarranted detentions—“You continue to arrest innocent people, you’re giving the terrorists exactly what they want,” she says—the aide sarcastically responds, “Well! You’ve got the makings of a splendid law-review article here. I’ll pass it on to the President.”

In another episode, a human-rights lawyer from a fictional organization called Amnesty Global tells Bauer, who wants to rough up an uncharged terror suspect, that he will violate the Constitution. Bauer responds, “I don’t wanna bypass the Constitution, but these are extraordinary circumstances.” He appeals to the President, arguing that any interrogation permitted by the law won’t be sufficiently harsh. “If we want to procure any information from this suspect, we’re going to have to do it behind closed doors,” he says.

“You’re talking about torturing this man?” the President says.

“I’m talking about doing what’s necessary to stop this warhead from being used against us,” Bauer answers.

When the President wavers, Bauer temporarily quits his job so that he can avoid defying the chain of command, and breaks the suspect’s fingers. The suspect still won’t talk, so Bauer puts a knife to his throat; this elicits the desired information. He then knocks the suspect out with a punch, telling him, “This will help you with the pain.”
Splendid - exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind, I'm sure.

Mayer’s article also notes the objections to the series raised by U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, with Gen. Finnegan voicing these concerns directly to Surnow and Bob Cochran, the show’s co-creator with Surnow. As you may expect with a program that commands such a huge audience share as they say in the T.V. biz, it turns out that students at the academy think the show is way cool and see no issues with the interrogation methods that are depicted.

Of course, Surnow and company dismiss these arguments with the typical, “well, we’re not all conservatives on this show” equivocating and try to show some feeble recognition of the fact that this show is nothing but a commercial for a country that, at its worst moments after 9/11, fails to recognize basic civil liberties or due process.

And, as Mayer notes, it doesn’t help also that President Brainless has climbed on board the “24” band wagon also…

The notion that physical coercion in interrogations is unreliable, although widespread among military intelligence officers and F.B.I. agents, has been firmly rejected by the Bush Administration. Last September, President Bush defended the C.I.A.’s use of “an alternative set of procedures.” In order to “save innocent lives,” he said, the agency needed to be able to use “enhanced” measures to extract “vital information” from “dangerous” detainees who were aware of “terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else.”
Personally, I’d be inclined to believe Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq, who said, “In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence…if anything, physical pain can strengthen the resolve to clam up.”

And as you may know or could easily surmise, the wingnuts, among others, absolutely love this show, with Surnow (who has extensive contacts among the big names) counting Cyrus Nowrasteh, the hack who is responsible for “The Path To 9/11,” among his friends (as well as Flush Limbore, for whom Surnow had a “24” evening jacket made that the OxyContin addict could wear presumably while indulging in brandy and cigars).

Also included in the aforementioned group is Head of Homeland Security Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff who said that “24” “depicts real life” (God, that man is an idiot!).

I was also somewhat surprised to learn on further investigation that this show airs at 9:00 PM in most T.V. markets in this country. With a slot like that, someone would have to be truly naïve to think that children aren’t actually watching this pornography.

I guess this makes me a dinosaur, but I want nothing whatsoever to do with this mess; I’ll satisfy myself with occasional other prime-time shows and movie reruns instead. I’ll gladly settle for misty, water-colored memories (and Babs a fan too? Say it ain’t so!) of programs that represent a time when our government advocated tolerance, self-respect and basic human dignity as opposed to exploding into eruptions of glee as human beings are stabbed, electrocuted, attacked with power tools or beaten with phone books.

Hey, I just realized that I saw that last method used in “The Falcon And The Snowman” with Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton, but I don’t think Surnow has tried that yet. He can go ahead and work that into the next episode; I won’t come knocking for a royalty, since I’m not the same type of mercenary he seems to be.

And here’s another idea for Surnow; write a story where Jack Bauer has to rumble up “Route Irish” in Iraq in a Humvee without doors knowing he could be fragged at any moment by an IED or an EFP. Or is that a little too much reality for him?

Update 8/15/07: Gosh, bad luck on that "comedy" show of yours Joel, you hammerhead.

Update 2/16/08: Ugh (h/t Atrios).

Anti-Environment Freeper Friday

This is one of the most unbelievable pieces of environmental wingnuttery I’ve ever read, courtesy of Suzanne Fields (it appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday)…

There's nothing like a celebrity sing-a-long to get the global warming juices boiling. Al Gore, the vice president who became a midway barker, has the greatest show on earth, maybe even the universe. He's offering a day of "Live Earth" concerts during the summer that will include musical artists and "thought leaders" such as Cameron Diaz, Snoop Dog and Enrique Iglesias. Hea-veee, as the kids used to say.
By the way, it will quickly become apparent that Fields makes no effort at all to refute any of the scientific evidence that global warming is real and exacerbated greatly by the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, primarily from man-made sources. She will make other attempted arguments that would actually be perversely funny if it weren’t for the deadly consequences (with heaping doses of freeper sarcasm throughout, I should add).

And yes, I’m somewhat skeptical of concerts with lots of big acts for good causes, but the alternative is to do nothing, so how in good conscience can you blame those who will participate for trying to do something good?

The carnival show will reach more than a million spectators with an additional 2 billion watching on television screens. Kevin Wall, who produced world tours for Madonna, is in charge and says he aims for coverage throughout the world, maybe even the solar system. "Two billion sets of eyeballs," he tells The Washington Post, "and we'll hand the mike to Al Gore."

The ex-veep is poised to take home one or maybe two Academy Awards for his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This could put him in the league with Obama and Hillary.
I’ve read that last sentence a few times, and I don’t know exactly what that means (though this column is fairly lucid for Fields, who is usually incoherent to the point where she is unreadable).

He says he's not running for president in '08, but that may be because he wants to be president of the Earth, or at least the Whole Earth Catalog. Who wants to spend a winter in New Hampshire talking about the heat somewhere else?
I guess this is what passes for freeper humor. Ha and ha.

Oh, and speaking of missed opportunities, I read that “The ½ Hour Show” produced by Joel Surnow of “24,” a fellow-travelling wingnut who I’ll try to say more about later, was only picked up for two episodes, one of which has already aired to at-best tepid reviews. C’est dommage!

Trendy notions are recycled overnight now, so Diesel, the Italian fashionista, is advertising the newest line as "Global Warming Ready." The designers are playing it for laughs all the way to the bank, but they're deadly serious about the Higher Cause. Models in global-warming-ready togs are photographed against a backdrop of Mount Rushmore with the sea flooding the nostrils of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. The most colorful characters on Diesel's website, however, are penguins in their natural formalwear and a parrot in his coat of many colors. Diesel understands that among environmentalists, the lower animals trump the human animal every time.
In particular, they trump attack dog freeper columnists (and speaking of animals, don’t worry – Fields will “bare her fangs” shortly; in her typical fashion, she reeeeally takes the long way to get to the point).

All this could be great fun if it weren't so dangerous. Winston Churchill, after all, once observed that he liked pigs because "a dog looks up to you, a cat looks down on you, but a pig accepts you as an equal." But when politics, fashion and entertainment fuse with scientific "factoids," truth drowns in a flood of misinformation.
I’m only halfway through this dreck, and I already have a headache.

In his new book, "Eco-Freaks," John Berlau, a policy director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank devoted to environmental policies, catalogs the tragic mistakes imposed on the rest of us by the environmentally correct. After Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring," DDT was banned nearly everywhere. Most of her "evidence" later turned out to be all wrong, but 2 million poor Africans die every year of malaria that DDT was on the way to eradicating. Al Gore, of course, blames global warming.
Here is a link to Berlau's bio at the CEI site, by the way, and as you can imagine, both Berlau and his group have the freeper pedigree that you would except (Fields’ column being nothing more than an excuse to hawk Berlau’s book, of course).

And if Berlau's going to attack environmentalism, then he has to go after the person who, happily for us all, is responsible for the movement to begin with, and as Fields notes, that would be Rachel Carson (I think the following excerpt from this Wikipedia article is noteworthy)…

In addition, many critics repeatedly asserted that she was calling for the elimination of all pesticides despite the fact that Carson had made it clear she was not advocating the banning or complete withdrawal of helpful pesticides, but was instead encouraging responsible and carefully managed use with an awareness of the chemicals' impact on the entire ecosystem. In fact, she concludes her section on DDT in Silent Spring not by urging a total ban, but with Practical advice should be "Spray as little as you possibly can" rather than "Spray to the limit of your capacity."
And the National Institutes of Health believe that DDT is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” as noted here, which is good enough for me. And this article about the dramatically high rate of breast cancer among women living on Cape Cod in Massachusetts noted the following:

(Researchers from the) Silent Spring (Institute)…culled data about nearly 50 years of pesticide and similar chemicals used on the Cape from 1948 to 1995, contacting federal, state, and local sources as well as private pesticide-spraying companies, cranberry growers and golf course superintendents. During the period studied, more than two dozen chemicals, including DDT, dieldrin and Sevin, were used as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides on cranberry bogs, wetlands, golf-courses and municipal areas such as telephone and power line sites. People living near these sites may have been exposed at the time of spraying, or over the years, as the chemicals leached into soil, food crops, or drinking water, researchers say.
And the only person who thinks Al Gore believes that global warming causes malaria is an idiot like Fields (of course, she probably took some quote from Gore about global warming helping the virus-carrying mosquitoes to breed and twisted it to suit her foul purpose).

Update 3/1/07: By the way, according to the promos for “An Inconvenient Truth,” the movie claims that scientists have reported cases of malaria at higher elevations than in previous years, and of course you can rely on Fields to misrepresent that.

Could DDT have been used to fight malaria in Africa despite the cancer risk (and help those “poor” Africans? Are we channeling Wolf “So Poor And So Black” Blitzer here?). I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is that there was a good reason why it was banned.

Asbestos, like DDT, gets a bad rap in the popular media, but nothing else comes close as a shield against heat. The original plans for the World Trade Center called for the interior steel in both towers to be covered with asbestos-based fireproofing material. Asbestos was eliminated when environmentalists objected. Engineers think the twin towers might be standing today but for the politically correct construction. Asbestos would have at least slowed the spread of the fire and the melting of the metal, giving hundreds of those who perished a chance to escape.
This is outrageous, even for the freepers.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen controlled demolition, and Towers 1 and 2 pancaked the same way on 9/11, as did Tower 7, which was hit by absolutely nothing (and I’ll never buy this “sympathetic vibration from the 1 and 2 collapse” crap). I have absolutely no evidence at this time to go further with this argument, though.

And now Fields and Berlau are arguing that, had the support structures of Towers 1 and 2 been lined with asbestos, the fires would not have spread so quickly and more people would have escaped the towers (and who are these “engineers,” by the way?).

They could argue that. However, I would argue instead that the fires would have demolished the asbestos insulation so quickly that it would not have made a difference. Beyond that, I would argue also that the fires would have unleashed the asbestos particles into the air, which would have increased the risk of asbestosis (a respiratory disease explained in this disputed Wikipedia article) for those who survived the devastation in the towers as well as any of the hundreds or possibly thousands of other people in midtown Manhattan in the vicinity of the attacks.

Here is more information from the Wikipedia article regarding asbestos, by the way…

In the United States, 10,000 people a year die from asbestos-caused diseases, including one out of every 125 American men who die over the age of 50. [17] The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no general ban on the use of asbestos. However, asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants regulated under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act of 1970, and many applications have been forbidden by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). [18]

According to a September 2004 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, asbestos is still a hazard for 1.3 million US workers in the construction industry and for workers involved in the maintenance of buildings and equipment. [19]

A Senate Subcommittee of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee heard testimony on July 31, 2001, regarding the health effects of asbestos. Members of the public, doctors, and scientists called for the United States to join other countries in a ban on the product.
Back to Fields (it gets still more unbelievable)…

Hurricane Katrina need not have been the tragedy it was. In 1977, the Army Corps of Engineers wanted to build large steel and concrete "sea gates" below sea level to prevent hurricane force winds driving storm surges into Lake Pontchartrain, overflowing into low-lying New Orleans. Such gates have been enormously successful in the Netherlands. But the Environmental Defense Fund, which had been a party to the lawsuit leading to the banning of DDT, persuaded a judge that the sea gates would discourage the mating of a certain fish species. Fishy romance trumped the lives of 3,100 Orleanians. "If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded," says Joe Towers, who was counsel for the New Orleans District of the Corps.
Thomas A. McGarity of the Center for Progressive Reform thoroughly refutes this claim from Towers here, with McGarity labeling it “pure fiction.” In particular, McGarity presents five thorough counterarguments to the notion that environmentally-related litigation delayed levee construction to a degree that it exacerbated Katrina’s destruction.

John Berlau spreads blame at all levels of state and national government where intimidated politicians glibly hide behind "greening of America" soft-headedness. Not all ecophiles are goofballs, but many show considerably less concern for humans than for the kangaroo rat, the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, and that little darling the snail darter. Radical environmentalism is often hazardous to your health. That's the inconvenient truth Al Gore ignores.
So is radical disinformation on the environment or anything else from clueless wingnut columnists.

And by the way, good luck on Sunday night, Al!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday Videos

K.T. Tunstall ("Another Place To Fall")...



...Linkin Park ("In The End").

Doomsy, You "Z" List Upstart!

Writing this post may be the most impudent thing I've ever done online (calling out one of my "A" list betters and all that), but here goes.

I just read the following Democratic presidential candidate analysis at The Daily Kos, and I have something to add based on this rundown of the John Edwards campaign.

Boy, that blogger stuff wasn't his campaign's finest hour. They betrayed a lack of preparation, foresight, and basic vetting. They were pushed into "bunker" mode by the rantings of Bill Donahue, giving little confidence they'd be able to withstand a serious attack from the VRWC. Then, the campaign leaked like a sieve -- were the bloggers fired or not? Then, the campaign did the right thing and held tight on the bloggers, but didn't tell them they shouldn't blog elsewhere. A couple of days later, the bloggers resign anyway, giving the right wingers a scalp.
Markos Moulitsas makes the good point that this took place early enough that it will likely end up as "a blip on the radar" months from now, as well as the fact that it helps Edwards to stay back while this Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama nonsense plays out (I mean, it's still WAY too early to get caught up in all of this I realize, even though I am a bit).

But for the life of me, I cannot understand what Markos (assuming first-name familiarity here, even though I've never met the man) means when he says that the Edwards campaign is guilty of not conducting "basic vetting" of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan. Were the two somehow supposed to remember everything they've posted that could be remotely controversial so that they could have communicated it to the Edwards people? And yes, I know the "Christofascist" stuff is bad and some other remarks, but c'mon now - everything?

Markos knows far better than I do that when you do this, you leave a trail ad infinitum. You can't get away from it. I don't believe that it's Marcotte or McEwan's fault that professional hypocrites and arguers like Malkin and Bill Donahue found stuff that could be turned into red meat for the winger lickspittles. Assuming anyone would ever care about what I do here enough to the point where I got the Marcotte/McEwan treatment, I guarantee you that somebody could find something. And if I were working on behalf of a candidate and announced myself as such, I don't think any amount of "vetting" would solve the inevitable freeper hissy fit that would arise.

I think that's just a basic reality of bloggers working for candidates. And no, I don't think it should prevent the former working for the latter by any means.

And by the way, mention of Edwards' health care proposal in the candidate summary might have been nice also.

"Big Time" Plays Hide The Chalabi

On a trip abroad recently, “Billion Dollar” Dick Cheney criticized the U.S. House vote on Iraq, stating that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Dems are trying to “validate the al Qaeda strategy” to “break the will of the American people.”

There is much that I could say in response to this criminal, but I will try to limit my remarks as follows (though I think this will be a long post anyway).

That to me means that Cheney believes that Pelosi and the Dems (including Congressman John Murtha, a far, far better man than Cheney could ever hope to be in his utter dreams) want to see terrorism victorious in Iraq.

Putting aside the utter monstrousness of that charge for a minute or two, I would like to point out the following based on pages 124-129 of “State of Denial,” Bob Woodward’s book about the runup leading to the Iraq war and the war itself up to about last summer.

This section has to do with the efforts of Gen. Jay Garner (a man who I am developing newfound respect for as I read this book) to obtain enough staff to accomplish the monumental task of trying to rebuild Iraq after the military goal of defeating Saddam Hussein had been achieved (Garner was named Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance).

As Woodward notes, Garner gathered about 200 people to the National Defense University at Fort McNair in southwest Washington, D.C. on February 21-22, 2003 for a massive rehearsal and planning conference (otherwise known as a “rock drill,” using an Army term for a field commander’s technique of using rocks to represent combat units and their positions in battle).

At the conclusion of the conference, Garner was despondent because he felt he’d unearthed more questions and issues than he’d been able to resolve (as you read this book, by the way, it becomes crystal clear that the lower-level officers and “grunts” knew exactly how this mess was likely to turn out, unfortunately), but he was struck by the questions asked by a man later identified as Tom Warrick, who previously had written a 20-page report called “The Future Of Iraq.” Among the issues Warrick raised were:

“…We risk letting much of the country descend into civil unrest and chaos whose magnitude may defeat the strategy of a stable new Iraq, and more immediately, we place our own troops, fully engaged in the forward fight, in greater jeopardy.”

“It seems likely that we will begin military action before we know whether sufficient…funds will be available. If fewer funds are available than required, we risk leaving behind a great unstable mess with potential to become a haven for terrorists.”

“The (rock drill) did not take up the most basic issue: What sort of future government of Iraq do we have in mind, and how do we plan to get there?”

“With no sufficient plan for police from U.S. troops or a civilian government of Iraq, ‘what happens to law and order in the meantime?’”
(And again, Warrick pointed this out four years ago and prior to the invasion.)

Garner found out later that Warrick worked for the State Department and wrote his “Future of Iraq” study in that capacity. Woodward also notes that Garner was thrilled to get Warrick, as well as Meghan O’Sullivan, also from State with a doctorate in political science from Oxford University who had written extensively about rogue states and Iraq. This was because Garner ran into a lot of resistance and “groupthink” as he assembled his team and had a hard time finding anyone to look realistically at what they were assigned to do from Bushco in Iraq.

So, Garner was allowed to add Warrick and O’Sullivan to his team, right?

Wrong.

Our old friend Don (“The Defense Secretary You Used To Have, And Probably Still Do To A Degree”) Rumsfeld pulled both of them from Garner’s team.

And the reason why is because both had been critical of Ahmed Chalabi (info here and here – again, according to Woodward)…

Warrick had been in the Clinton Administration and was a strong advocate of indicting Saddam Hussein as a war criminal. He worked on regime change for State, met with lots of Iraqi exiles, and had discovered that other exiles weren’t exactly enamored of Chalabi. In fact, there had been a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders he’d worked with in 2002 when many of them said they wouldn’t come if Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were put in charge (of postwar Iraq).

O’Sullivan had worked at the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank, and she was seen as a protégé of Richard N. Haass, the director of policy planning at (Colin) Powell’s State Department. She and Haass had co-authored a paper urging the use of economic, political and cultural incentives as levers to influence countries such as Iraq instead of military force or covert action. In another paper O’Sullivan had questioned U.S. support to Iraqi exiles.

Garner thought the whole maneuver was a bad sign. He was repelled that personalities and apparently ideology would play a role in such vital postwar planning. Losing Warrick, clearly a top expert on the issues, was a blow, though Garner’s team kept his “Future of Iraq” study, and a lot of Iraqis who had worked on it wound up in Garner’s organization.
Something I should point out is that the postwar reconstruction was ultimately tasked to Rummy as Secretary of Defense instead of Colin Powell as Secretary of State (explaining a lot, I realize), and that also explains why Garner reported ultimately to Rummy on this one.

Further, it explains why Warrick and O’Sullivan were booted out by Douglas Feith working on Rummy’s behalf (Feith didn’t want anyone from State, or as he called it derisively, “The Department of Nice”…something else you quickly realize as you read this book is that Douglas Feith is one of the most incompetent human beings who has ever walked upright in the history of time).

But both Feith and Rummy had to be following orders from somebody, and you’ll never guess who that “somebody” was.

If you said Dick Cheney, then you get an automatic invitation to his daughter’s baby shower.

So, for reasons of “ideological purity” (in this case, calling out Chalabi for the crook and utterly clueless liar that he was and probably still is), Cheney had two highly talented individuals removed from Jay Garner’s reconstruction team; both could have provided vital assistance in postwar Iraq immediately after the invasion in the areas of rebuilding infrastructure, addressing medical needs, and re-establishing law and order.

So, tell me again, Dick, how much more are Nancy Pelosi and the other House Dems trying to help the terrorists achieve victory in Iraq, assuming they could promote that unholy cause more than you have by virtue of your own murderous egomania, stubbornness and overall incompetence?

Star Wars Redux (02/22/07)

Dubya's thus-far tragic presidential administration began with an emphasis on missile defense at the expense of funding the less-visible elements of fighting terrorism such as the development of human-source contacts and other elements of counter insurgency.

And from all appearances thus far, it may end the same way.

This story describes how our government seeks to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland as part of our latest crack at a missile defense shield (and the predictable outcry from Russia in particular, which should not have been unexpected).

I know it’s kind of a “water wet, sky blue” observation to point out that this doesn’t have as much to do with fighting terror as it does with lining the pockets of Bushco’s corporate benefactors (and further, as noted here)…

As we move past the half trillion mark in defense spending, perhaps (we) will begin the vital discussion about tradeoffs within the defense budget. Maybe now we can move past that old political trap of "guns versus butter" and get on with the "guns versus guns" debate. In budget item terms, this is the fight over military resources dedicated to technology versus human beings. Maybe, with counter insurgency's comeback and the recognition that all the techno gadgets in the world can't find a political solution for Iraq--the human resources issues within the military will get a boost.

This reality does not make the defense industry happy, however.

The flying sprocket lobby has a lot invested in the status quo. Last year (2005) saw $32 billion in mergers and acquisitions in the global aerospace, defense and information technology sectors. And they are moving into new markets. Monday's Washington Post included an article about the firms competing for border security contracts. The American firms--Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing-- were offering up mostly high-tech super expensive gadgets (UAVs, blimps and drones) Meanwhile, the Swedish firm Ericsson put its pitch in for human-centric relatively low tech communications system, off the shelf type personal digital assistants. Let's see who wins this one. Will it be the ones who have become experts in post Cold War peacekeeping OR the ones who are learning a devastating lesson about the limits of democracy by force?
And the eternal Molly Ivins reminded us of the following three years ago (and I sincerely doubt that much has changed in this scenario between then and now, except the overall cost)…

Speaking of both radar and stupid government, for a truly pathological example of how ideological fixations and denying reality can cost us dearly, to the $200 billion for the disaster in Iraq add at least $150 billion to deploy the unproven and unworkable missile-defense system, nee Star Wars. Since Star Wars was a pet scheme of Ronald Reagan's, Republicans insist on trying to carry out this nutty idea, the equivalent of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Ye olde military-defense complex also has a rather large stake in keeping this dog of a program going.
Of course, I’d feel better if I knew that we were devoting as much time, money and effort on the legitimate global war on terror, such as the spread of radical Islam in Northern Africa (actually, I’d feel considerably better if we would pare down the whole missile defense idea to a size “where you could drown it in a bathtub,” as someone once said).

(Oh, and by the way, speaking of human sources funding terrorism...).

Bushco and the Repugs know that political battles have to be fought by winning hearts and minds, so to speak, on a local level before success can be achieved on a national level. How sadly ironic that they refuse to learn this lesson regarding actual battles of considerably greater significance.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cassels In The Sand

Philadelphia Inquirer Wealth Perspective Pundit Andrew Cassel foisted this piece of propaganda on us last Sunday (still catching up)…

The Economy Remember the great fear of offshoring?

By Andrew Cassel
Inquirer Columnist

We can't let February slip by without noting an important anniversary. Not another presidential birthday - this month marks the third year since the Great Offshoring Scare of 2004.

Remember? It was this month three years ago that Americans woke up to the shocking realization that many of the voices on the other end of the tech-support help line were in India, or Ukraine, or the Philippines. The news hit like a rock, and life was never the same again.

OK, I'm exaggerating. A lot of us actually knew about offshoring before then. And as for life never being the same... well, you decide.

February 2004, however, is definitely when offshoring peaked as an issue.

That month, Wired magazine, which keeps its finger on the pulse of the information-technology community, published a cover article about the spreading revolt of American tech workers against firms that filled programming and other jobs overseas.

One of Wired's key interviews was with Scott Kirwin of Wilmington, who had lost his job doing back-office tech work for a bank in Delaware. The experience had shaken Kirwin's faith in American business and prompted him to start a grassroots activist group to lobby for protection against offshoring.

"Politicians are not aware of the problem that information workers are facing here," Kirwin told the magazine. "It's not just the IT people. It's going to be anybody. That really worries me. Where does it stop?"
That of course is the $64,000 question, as they say, as well as what new technological innovation will come in the wake of jobs already lost to provide new ones of comparable skill at the prior level of compensation or better.

Unfortunately, we should not hold our breath in expectation of that taking place, at least not until after 1/20/09, the day that, barring impeachment, we are no longer inflicted with Bushco, which, more than any other prior administration, is responsible for the exodus of jobs from this country.

Then, on Feb. 9, the White House released its annual Economic Report of the President. Buried deep on Page 229 of the report was a paragraph noting the growth of offshore outsourcing by U.S. businesses and suggesting this was basically no different from other kinds of international trade:

"The basic economic forces behind the transactions are the same... . When a good or service is produced more cheaply abroad, it makes more sense to import it than to make or provide it domestically."

Gregory Mankiw, who oversaw that report as chief White House economic adviser, didn't think it was very inflammatory. Neither did most of the reporters who covered the report's release. But the next day, a headline in the Los Angeles Times read "Bush supports shift of jobs overseas." And off we went.

Mankiw was taken to the White House woodshed. House Speaker Denny Hastert demanded a personal apology. Democrats went ballistic - it was an election year, after all.

Most famously, then-candidate John Kerry issued a statement denouncing what he called "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who shipped U.S. jobs overseas. The airwaves and cables fairly hummed with angry talk about offshoring.

And what happened next? Nothing.

Nothing, that is, like the massive outflow of jobs that many feared. Employment growth, which had been notably slow after the 2001 recession, picked up in the United States. (We've gained more than five million jobs since early 2004.)
According to who? Bushco’s Labor Department? Nice to do your homework on this, Cassel (and in typical Inky Repug-simpatico fashion, Cassel tries to utterly marginalize concerns voiced by the Democratic Party).

Recruiters who specialize in information-technology workers say they have more openings than they can fill.

And as a hot-button headline issue, offshoring appears to have gone the way of Y2K and the Red Menace. File it under N, for Not as Big a Deal as We Thought.
I love that the fact that Mankiw is a total right-wing ideologue is utterly omitted here (he is referred to in this set of Salon.com columns on offshoring from Andrew Leonard – interesting reading).

Also, I guess I should just automatically link to this column from Paul Craig Roberts whenever anyone from our corporate media starts peddling fiction about how wonderful our economy is in general and offshoring is in particular (the one I referred to in this post from a couple of weeks ago, in particular this excerpt)…

Job growth over the last five years is the weakest on record. The US economy came up more than 7 million jobs short of keeping up with population growth. That’s one good reason for controlling immigration. An economy that cannot keep up with population growth should not be boosting population with heavy rates of legal and illegal immigration.

Over the past five years (2001-2006) the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government.

US manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17% of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is “the envy of the world.”
And this post referencing a column about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before a Senate subcommittee notes that we’ve lost 500, 000 IT jobs to India alone (that’s a best-guess estimate, by the way – Bushco and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao don’t even bother to track jobs lost to offshoring).

And by the way, what kind of jobs is Cassel talking about anyway here? Contract, non-permanent ones with crappy “bennies”? And God forbid that a union is involved here, right?

Are we all still feeling just ducky about offshoring, boys and girls?

Yes, some still see offshoring as a threat, sort of. A Brookings Institution report last week said some metropolitan regions with lots of high-tech employment could see as many as 4.3 percent of their jobs go overseas. (Philadelphia isn't so vulnerable - the Brookings report estimates our potential losses at 2.5 percent at the most.)

But most economists who've looked at the issue rate the long-run economic impact of offshoring as either (1) minimal, or (2) positive. Using overseas workers to save money or boost productivity generally results in better or cheaper services, which in turn leads to more competition, more innovation, and growth.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Listen to Scott Kirwin, who made a return appearance in December to Wired magazine. Things have changed. He shut down his anti-offshoring Web site in 2006 and has since found himself a better job in the software business. "I don't view outsourcing as the big threat it was," he told the magazine. "In the end, America may be stronger for it."
I’m happy for Scott Kirwin, but I’m pretty fed up with those at this point who advocate offshoring/”free” trade/deregulation/any manner of DLC-promulgated-Third-Way-bullshit as a means to strengthening our economy and our workforce. The long and short of it is that, unless you're a member of the investor class, it’s a lie.

And by the way, here’s more from Roberts on how offshoring contributes to our trade deficit, something else Cassel didn’t bother to mention.

Finally, as I stated earlier, Dubya is the biggest presidential cheerleader of offshoring that this country has ever seen. Well then, if he’s so happy about it, why didn’t he show the labels on the boxes of all of these items manufactured in China instead of sticking duct tape over the markings designating their place of origin?

Australian Schizophrenia

Does this mean that Barack Obama will receive an apology (and, as Atrios pointed out yesterday, it looks like “the poodle” bites after all).

So I guess, as far as John Howard is concerned, only U.S. troops are supposed to fight and die in Iraq; it’s OK if Blair and the Brits pull out and the Aussies (for the most part) keep half a world away from the fighting.

I can’t blame Blair for bailing, though. In addition to arriving at the realization that most of us have already experienced in this country, we can’t have a member of the royal family killed in this thing, can we?

Paid For By "Mikey '08 For Congress"

This letter appeared Monday in the Bucks County Courier Times (a little more catch-up to do for yours truly)…

This week, the Democrats announced their Iraq war De-escalation Act of 2007 and the Courier Times published a front-page story featuring our own congressman Pat Murphy.

The Democrats announced a bill already introduced in the House on Jan. 31, reportedly their solution to the Iraq war. Co-sponsored by Murphy, the bill answers critics who said the Democrats have no specific plan for extricating the United States from Iraq.
I checked Wikipedia, WashingtonWatch, and the press release announcing this bill (H.R. 787 and S. 433) by Sen. Barack Obama and Reps. Patrick Murphy and Mike Thompson, and absolutely nowhere can I find any references to prior legislation of this type that preceded H.R. 787 (and here’s a Kos link also).

And as always, the Repugs blame the Dems for not having a plan to get us out of Iraq and bring sweetness and light to that now-wretched place, which is kind of like the kid getting his hand caught in the candy jar and, when the jar breaks spilling candy all over the place, complaining that the problem occurred because the jar wasn’t strong enough.

Notably, it blocks the deployment of 21,500 new troops as recently requested by President Bush. Let’s revisit the congressional campaign of 2006. Congressman Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, made the war a centerpiece of his campaign against incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.
Of course, our red-state president ignored the bill’s timeline (capping the troop levels as of 1/10/07), which I realize is his right according to the separation of powers, particularly since the bill was not signed law, though it reflects his typical tone deafness to what the vast majority of the people of this country want.

The candidate had many positions on the war.
That’s a typical lie from Mikey and his people. Patrick adjusted the timelines for his original proposal during the campaign to accommodate the reality on the ground, though he has been steadfast in calling for a phased redeployment to maintain an “over-the-horizon” force for Iraq while refocusing on Afghanistan and bin Laden (assuming he’s still there - remember him?), which should have been our priority all along.

Midway through 2005, Murphy released his “Soldier’s Plan for Iraq.” He advocated the removal of all troops by December 2006, notably with no demands on the Iraqi government. That date, however, was later amended to December 2007 – again, no constructive benchmarks for the Iraqis.
From Patrick Murphy’s old campaign web site…

Patrick believes in a responsible exit strategy, with benchmarks and a timeline, which encourages the Iraqis to stand up on their own, brings our men and women home, and most importantly, closes this chapter of our history and refocuses our efforts to win the War on Terror.
At the time, Patrick was campaigning for Congress of course; he had not been elected yet. How could Patrick come up with benchmarks at that point on the war when, still as a private citizen, he was not in an “advise and consent” position in government? How does Mikey get a total pass on that here, since he was still serving?

In reading about the grand De-escalation Act of 2007, I recalled that in August 2006, then-Congressman Fitzpatrick took aim at Murphy for his so-called “cut and run” plan, as well as President Bush’s own “stay the course.”
“Cut and run” being political jingoistic crap that even Repugs have disowned at this point, by the way.

Since I was a member of the Fitzpatrick re-election campaign team, I clearly recall the congressman urging a new strategy for success in Iraq that included benchmarks or clearly defined goals for the Iraqi government. There would be no exact timeline for troop withdrawal, rather, it would come in phases, Fitzpatrick said, inextricably tied to meeting certain benchmarks. (As they step up, we step down).
And herein, to me, lies the reason why Mike Fitzpatrick is a private citizen now and Patrick Murphy is serving in Congress.

We kept hearing all through the campaign about Mike Fitzpatrick is supposedly “calling for a new strategy” or criticizing both Dubya and Patrick simultaneously. But as Patrick and others pointed out repeatedly, including your humble narrator, reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements on Iraq and other matters. But when you disagree without offering a plan of your own or endorsing someone else’s, particularly on the issue of the Iraq war, then that is a fundamental failure of leadership.

Instead of running kicking and screaming to the Iraq Study Group (the author will get to them next) and asking “hard questions” and demanding “hard answers” or whatever, you’re supposed to craft legislation and sponsor it in Congress seeking a change if you don’t like the status quo. That is what Patrick did along with Barack Obama and Mike Thompson, but Mikey refused to do that because it ran contrary to the wishes of his Repug “betters.”

Fitzpatrick also supported many of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group in August 2006 and advocated a broadening of diplomatic action, greater resources for training Iraqi troops, and greater accountability for contractors rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure.
And which political party does it reflect badly on again that these remain as issues?

But when Fitzpatrick called for a new strategy for success in Iraq, Murphy criticized, Murphy politicized. In reading the Feb. 7 news story, I see that the proposed De-Escalation Act includes recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and, lo and behold, there are requirements for benchmarks and specific goals for the Iraqis. It also includes the gradual redeployment of combat troops, with March 31, 2008 as the date when it is expected for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq.
Yes – see, it’s called Congress doing its job and performing its function of oversight (of course, not that Dubya or any of his cronies would listen to the recommendations the author is talking about anyway). But again, this bill wasn’t called the Hagel-Weldon-Fitzpatrick bill (though I could see Hagel supporting at least some of it).

I can only imagine what Mike Fitzpatrick was thinking when he read that front-page story about (finally) the Democrats’ solution for Iraq. I think he may have said, “Hey, that sounds familiar.”

Pat Wandling
Middletown Township, PA
Oh yeah, Pat, I almost forgot – how funny is it to hear you complain about Murphy “politicizing” on Iraq when Mikey allowed Young Philadelphia Repug Kevin Kelly to politicize Patrick’s service?

Lou Is Untrue To Me And You

After reading this commentary from Lou Dobbs, I have some questions...

Which political party is responsible for conducting no oversight of the Iraq War?

Which political party is currently doing all it can to stifle debate on the war in the Senate?

Which political party has ignored the items on Dobbs' laundry list of issues (and I'm sorry, but illegal immigration doesn't carry the same weight with me as trying to save our jobs, the environment and our schools)?

Which political party has put up road blocks in the Senate to all of the legislation passed by the U.S. House as part of the 110th Congress? (and by the way, Dobbs is wrong on the minimum wage bill)...my bad

The Repugs, that's who!

I will never tell you that the Democrats are perfect, but let's get real here, OK? Blaming corporations and lobbyists and their influence on our legislators is all well and good, but if a 900-pound gorilla is smacking you over the head with a baseball bat, you're going to worry about the gorilla and not the size of the bat, correct?

(Hey, this is "theater of the mind," OK? Work with me, people...!!)

It's a shame that Dobbs engages in his own brand of demagoguery here (blaming both parties equally, I mean) because he makes some good points (and kudos for taking on those DLC frauds). However, fundamentally inaccurate commentaries such as this ultimately lead to cynicism and loathing instead of the constructive action that we need to get our government working on our behalf for a change.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Kurt Cobain would have been 40 today ("Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana of course - I often feel intermittently stupid and contagious from time to time)...



...Randy California (nee Wolfe) would have been 56 today ("1984" by Spirit on "The Music Scene" in 1969)...



...The Killers ("When You Were Young" - I think the video was put together by a fan and not the actual band, but I think the images work for the most part)...



...and by the way, happy 80th birthday to the great Sidney Poitier (acting here with Roy E. Glenn, Sr.) in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" (from 1967, in which Poitier's character, among other things, is wrestling with the prospect of an interracial marriage).

Real Moral Values

As a Catholic who will recognize the beginning of Lent tomorrow with Ash Wednesday services (Lent being a time of penance and preparation for Easter), I was glad to see this post from R.J. Eskow at HuffPo about Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA who, as Eskow notes, observed the following about the Bush fiscal budget...

"...the president's new budget hurts those living in poverty at a time when we should be doing even more to help the most vulnerable among us."

"In fact, with cuts to key programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, the president's budget will only serve to exacerbate the problems facing millions of our nation's poor families," Father Snyder said, noting that there are "drastic cuts and changes" to a range of programs that address the health and well-being of low-income families and individuals.
As I've said previously, right-wing bigot Bill Donahue (who somehow can claim to represent my faith) does not speak for me.

Father Larry Snyder, however, does speak for me. God bless him.

An Opus Of Beltway Blather

I realize that anything which is a few days old on the Internet might as well be ancient, but that hasn’t stopped me from commenting on items of that type in the past. With that admittedly dubious precedent in mind, I feel absolutely compelled to respond to David Broder’s column last Friday.

Glenn Greenwald, among others, made reference to it here at Salon.com (have to view an ad for the movie “Babel” just out on DVD, I believe), but I haven’t yet seen anyone take it apart and give it the treatment it deserves (under Broder’s title, “Bush Regains His Footing”).

It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.
Actually, I would be astonished (dear Lord, here comes another variation of the “Bush bounce,” narrative which is sooo old by now – have we broken triple digits on this one yet? I’ve lost count).

Like President Bill Clinton after the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, Bush has gone through a period of wrenching adjustment to his reduced status. But just as Clinton did in the winter of 1995, Bush now shows signs of renewed energy and is regaining the initiative on several fronts.
How do I count the ways that these statements are preposterous? Let’s see…under Clinton, our country actually wasn’t stuck in a debilitating war that was draining our treasury and resources and, most importantly, the lives of our military men and women, to say nothing of the impact on their families and friends; our country was enjoying a period of prosperity marked by job growth where our leaders were acting fiscally like adults; we cared about the purity and sanctity of this planet and showed environmental consciousness, etc…

Clinton was able to build on a record of success, upon which Dubya has built nothing but failure.

More important, he is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.
Silly me, I keep forgetting that in “Beltway World,” all that matters is politics, because reality departed the scene shortly after January 2001.

His reaction to the planned House vote opposing the increase he ordered in U.S. troops deployed to Iraq illustrates the point.

When Bush faced reporters on Wednesday morning, he knew that virtually all those in the Democratic majority would be joined by a significant minority of Republicans in voting today to decry the "surge" strategy.

He did three things to diminish the impact of that impending defeat.

First, he argued that the House was at odds with the Senate, which had within the past month unanimously confirmed Gen. David H. Petraeus as the new commander in Iraq -- the man Bush said was the author of the surge strategy and the man who could make it work. Bush has made Petraeus his blocking back in this debate -- replacing Vice President Cheney, whose credibility is much lower.
Didn’t Barry Nathan just say in his fine letter that governing isn’t “sport”? Amazing how people not “in the know” grasp the obvious as opposed to our clueless leaders (re: the reference to Gen. Petraeus as Dubya’s “blocking back” – when considering how inappropriate the analogy is, it’s easy to discount its basic absurdity).

Also, Bush said that Petraeus was “the author of the surge strategy”?

I don’t know where the hell Broder got that from, but I’ll tell you what; here is a link to the “60 Minutes” interview Dubya gave to Scott Pelley a little over a month ago. At this time, I won’t go through that and answer Dubya’s ongoing idiocy – only so many hours in the day. But I did a search on all six pages of the online version of the interview for “Petraeus” (the interview being basically a PR piece of sorts for “the surge,”) and found absolutely nothing.

No, Broder, Gen. Petraeus isn’t “the author of the surge strategy.” That ignominy falls upon George W. Bush and no one else (and I love the way you just gloss over Billion Dollar Cheney by saying “his credibility is much lower” as if that statement had the same non-newsworthiness as “the sky is blue”).

And by the way, speaking of “the surge,” I thought Parade Magazine had an interesting column here about why we’re not hearing about a “coalition of the willing” helping us this time around (see “Coalition In Collapse).

Second, he minimized the stakes in the House debate by endorsing the good motives of his critics, rejecting the notion that their actions would damage U.S. troops' morale or embolden the enemy -- all by way of saying that the House vote was no big deal.
I guess, having utterly failed as a political columnist with any credibility, Broder now morphs into the role of dime-store psychologist as if by magic, trying to ascertain some trace, however microscopic, of something approximating leadership from our red-state president.

Saying that the House vote was no big deal (assuming that actually happened, based on what Broder says here) is a slap in the face at everyone who voted for new congressional leadership last November, including your humble narrator. Is it necessary for me to point this out to Broder? In addition to a refresher class in News Writing 101, does he also need a civics lesson?

And third, by contrasting today's vote on a nonbinding resolution with the pending vote on funding the war in Iraq, he shifted the battleground to a fight he is likely to win -- and put the Democrats on the defensive.
We’ll see if that happens; more likely in the Senate than the House, Broder’s cheerleading for Dubya notwithstanding.

Much of their own core constituency wants them to go beyond nonbinding resolutions and use the power of the purse to force Bush to reduce the American commitment in Iraq.
Broder’s “(Democratic) core constituency” is actually about two-thirds of the country by now, including many Republicans (of course, living and reporting inside the Beltway as he does, you’ll have to forgive Broderius Ignoramus for not having a clue about that).

But congressional Democrats are leery of seeming to withhold resources from the 150,000 troops who will be fighting in that country once the surge is complete; that is why they blocked Republicans from offering resolutions of their own in the House or Senate pledging to keep financing the war.
Ugh…

For the record, debate on funding the war is scheduled to take place this week in the House (and as I said, part of me wants to see the Repugs blocked out on that, but that won’t happen, nor should it to be honest). And as for the Senate, as I noted earlier, last Saturday, the Repugs barely defeated a Democratic effort to even discuss the war!

It needs to be pointed out again; the Repugs are going to try and trick the congressional Democrats into passing a resolution that makes it look like, in the process of trying to prevent the surge (which, sadly, Congress really can’t do when all is said and done, and it’s happening anyway at this moment because Dubya decided that he was king long ago and didn’t have to play by anyone’s rules), they’re going to cut off funding for our troops. That explains Huckleberry Graham’s goading in the Senate, because if the Dems vote yes as things stand now, that means they support the surge also and debate on “the surge” is meaningless.

Democrats did not want an up-or-down vote on that question, but Bush has placed it squarely before them.
Playing politics with the lives of our soldiers, of course (and Broder is wrong again; an up-and-down vote is exactly what Reid got in the Senate on Saturday, though it didn’t quite turn out the way we wanted of course).

In other respects, too, Bush has been impressive in recent days.
To Broder, Dubya is “impressive”; if another definition of that word that I’m unaware of is “sadly inept,” then I would have to agree.

He has been far more accessible -- and responsive -- to the media and public, holding any number of one-on-one interviews, both on and off the record, leading up to Wednesday's televised news conference. And he has been more candid in his responses than in the past.
Examples? Anywhere in sight? Hello???

While forcefully making his points, he has depersonalized the differences with his critics and opponents. He has not only vouched for the good intentions of congressional Democrats, he has visited them on their home ground, given them opportunities to question him face to face, and repeatedly outlined areas -- aside from Iraq -- where he says they could work together on legislation: immigration, energy, education, health care, the budget.

With the public eager for some bipartisan progress on all these fronts, Bush is signaling that he, at least, is ready to try.
Wow, over six years into his administration and, according to Broder, Dubya is actually acting like he may want to govern at long last (again, forced into that role based on last November’s results). What a guy!

At his news conference, he also stepped away from personal confrontation with the rulers in Iran, making it clear that he does not necessarily hold its political leadership responsible for shipping arms to the insurgent Shiites fighting in Iraq. He insisted the U.S. military would do whatever is necessary to halt the shipments and protect the troops, but he said repeatedly that these defensive measures are not a prelude to aggressive action against Iran.
Try defining “aggressive action.” Part of the reason why we’re stuck in this mess is because a U.N. resolution to “use force” meant one thing to the Clinton Administration when they presented it to the U.N., but with Dubya, “force” means “pre-emptive war,” but of course nobody realized that until after we’d invaded.

And gosh…exaggerating claims against an aggressor nation based on questionable evidence – I guess we’re just supposed to “clap louder” and completely ignore the fact that that that’s an even bigger reason why we’re stuck in Iraq, but just trust Great White Father Dubya that he’d never do that with Iran, huh?

Nice that our leaders think we’re as dumb as they are, to say nothing of their media stenographers like Broder.

All this is to the good. But Bush, unlike Clinton, is in the middle of a bloody civil war, which can be ended only by the Iraqis themselves.
If you really believe that, Broder, then why aren’t you screaming along with us for our troops to get the hell out of there?

All he claims to be able to do is to provide some breathing space for them by attempting to reduce the violence. As he said, "What really matters is what happens on the ground. I can talk all day long, but what really matters to the American people is to see progress."
That’s been the mantra for as long as this truly horrible war has taken place. We haven’t seen it yet, and no “surge” will produce it either.

And whether the American people will see it, no one knows.
As I read this the first time (or maybe the second – it was so unbelievable I had to go through it twice), I wondered what the reaction would be if someone who knew absolutely nothing about our government suddenly appeared in this country and read this column. They would think that this country is more or less a dictatorship, with someone trying to rule through a cult of personality of one type or another while other functions of government served merely as appendages of a sort to presidential power.

It’s difficult to comprehend, let along communicate, all the ways that this column tries to perpetuate some kind of alternative reality devoid of any sense of journalistic interpretation or analysis. It is nothing more than an attempt to prop up a leader who has become every bit of the miserable failure many predicted he would be, including me (and I take no pride or pleasure from that observation, by the way).

This is one of the most hopelessly jaded columns of partisan hackery not written by J.D. Mullane that I have ever seen. If it isn’t the product of rose-colored bias and journalistic-political favoritism, then the only other explanation is advanced senility on the part of its author.

Join Health Care Action Day 2/24

The latest from Edwards '08...

This month, John Edwards became the first and only candidate to announce a real plan for universal health care. We made headlines, signed up thousands of supporters, and sent in letters to the editors of papers across the nation—a good start.

As Elizabeth wrote yesterday, changes this big don't work when they come from the top down. We've got to do more than elect John Edwards president. We've got to build a nationwide mandate for universal health care from the bottom up—while also reaching out to those who need health care today. So this weekend, one by one, that's exactly what we aim to do.

This Saturday, February 24th, is our National Day of Health Care Action. Local chapters of John Edwards One Corps have already planned events nationwide to spread the word, build support, and help out those in need. And, if you'd like to organize your own action, we've got all the materials you need to make it a success.

Just click
here to learn more and join in.

Here are just two examples of the many creative events John Edwards One Corps chapters are hosting this Saturday:

From John N. in Chicago, Illinois:

Chicago volunteers for Senator Edwards are invited to gather to distribute information on the Senator's critically acclaimed plan for providing affordable quality health insurance for ALL Americans on Saturday, February 24th at Millennium Park. We also hope to provide paperwork for citizens not yet registered to vote.

From Rose A. in Alexandria, Virginia:

Please join us this month as we each write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in order to publicize John Edwards' plan for universal health care coverage!! Also stay tuned for details about our effort to participate in a Red Cross blood drive....

From coast to coast, fellow John Edwards supporters will be gathering this Saturday to fight for universal health care.

Some of us will pass out fliers explaining Senator Edwards' health care proposal while signing up new supporters. Some of us will gather to write letters to the editor of local newspapers. And some of us will give blood or find other ways to help those in our community who need health care today.

But all of us will be taking action because we share the core belief of this campaign: Transformational change is not someone else's job for another time. Changing America is our responsibility, and it begins today.

To learn more and join in, just click
here.

Thank you,

Ben Brandzel
John Edwards for President


P.S. Make sure you check out this great video of Senator Edwards discussing his health care proposal at a recent town hall in Iowa.
To learn more, click here (and here is a fine editorial by Paul Krugman).

Don't Fear The "I" Word

This letter also appeared in yesterday’s Bucks County Courier Times (the author is Barry Nathan of Lower Southampton, PA)…

Somewhere along the line, politics became a sporting event. You root Red! I’ll root Blue! My ideals versus yours.

The problem is some of our ideals and ideologies are in direct contradiction to the foundations of our system. Ideologues need to be imprisoned if they serve in the trust of public office and dare to interfere with the schematic distribution of law, as outlined in our National Archives.

George Washington insisted there be no kings or bosses. No lord roaming the hallways of Capitol Hill, but each entrusted should face the electorate at regular intervals. We are the caretakers of the Constitution. That’s the job. That is our job. Politics, government and the care of our people are not sport. After family and our personal tethers to spirituality, friends and neighbors, nothing takes a backseat to strong leadership and characterized by good morals and a deep interest in the common welfare of our children, poor and aged. The love of our least is the strength of our best.

Our leaders are failing. You know it and I know it. We got lost in this million-media world where righteousness has been turned into “sport.” When known hyperbole, like the entertaining lunacy of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, becomes sort of cult-driven false reality, we’ve bent the paradigm. People believe this crap. Which just goes to show that our educational system really is failing. Therein rests your proof.

Washington has become a subculture unto itself – by itself, for itself. Standing on the principles of corporate degeneracy; the pandering of lobbyists; and a firm desire to preserve perversity, the status quo, and the emptying of our national coffers for personal gain. When you’ve had enough, allow your senator or congressman to demand hearings that may or may not lead to impeachment and/or jail time for anyone, regardless of party affiliation, who would dare conduct himself below the standards set forth in the preceding articles of James Madison, et al.

Don’t fear impeachment. Fear a government too introverted and laced with cronyism to dare the exposure of impeachment.
I should add that I have never found anything whatsoever to do with Limbaugh or O’Reilly to constitute “entertainment,” but that is my only qualm with Nathan’s otherwise fine letter.

And John Kerry Bombed Cambodia Too

This appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday from John Wible of Bensalem, PA.

Just after the O.J. Simpson acquittal, I heard a man on television say, “He got off because the cops tried to frame a guilty man.” Whether they tried to frame O.J. is argumentative and irrelevant to this missive, but it reminds me of how the forces of “wingnuttery” on the right are constantly trying to frame those they disagree with, guilty or not. This brings me to Richard Petrucco’s letter of Jan. 30th.

Petrucco claims Sandy Berger pleaded guilty to “stealing top secret documents.” Actually, according to Fox News of April 3, 2005, and other sources, Berger pleaded guilty to “unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.” First, “Classified” can mean “confidential,” “secret,” or “top secret.” Again, according to Fox, Noel Hillman, chief of the Bush Justice Department’s public integrity section…said Berger had only copies of documents; all of the originals remain in the government’s possession.” Nothing was stolen.

Petrucco compares employees of Coca-Cola, on trial now for stealing the Coke formula, to the Berger case. Petrucco claims these employees “face fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and up to 20 years in prison,” insinuating that Berger got off easy for a more egregious crime. Petrucco is trying to pull a fast one here, as the Coke case is still in adjudication and we have yet to learn of the penalties if found guilty. Berger could have been sentenced to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. He plea-bargained for the lesser penalties, quite possibly an avenue for the defendants in the Coke case.

Petrucco goes on to bemoan the “persecution – not prosecution – of Scooter Libby,” bringing up the straw-man argument that Libby wasn’t the leak. Among other things, Libby is charged with lying to a federal investigator; the same charge that sent Martha Stewart to jail, though she wasn’t found guilty of insider trading, which was the cause of the original investigation. Will we find an angry letter to the editor from Petrucco condemning the “persecution” of Stewart?

By the way, Ken Starr went after President Bill Clinton for Whitewater but got him on lying about Monica Lewinsky. Persecution?

Petrucco also bemoans the “out-of-control special prosecutor” Republican Patrick Fitzgerald, named by Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the case. I seem to remember right-wingers defending the arguably “out of control” Ken Starr during the Clinton years, but that was then, this is now, correct? Libby is also being charged with perjury and obstruction, the same charges the right-wingers wanted Clinton hanged for. But that was then, this is now, correct?

If you ask me, I think Congressman Patrick Murphy acted as the lookout, helping Berger “steal” the documents. I also think Hillary Clinton pushed the iceberg in front of the Titanic. And we all know Bill bombed Pearl Harbor, then framed the Japanese. These “liberals” just got away with it.
Petrucco has been a chronic offender on the supposed “issue” of Sandy Berger and the national archive documents before, among other matters; he is continually refuted, but then continually brings up the matter several months later after he assumes that everyone has forgotten (trust me, we haven’t).

As I said before regarding Wible, I hate competition, especially when it’s good :- ); Wible's bio notes that he's a retired Teamster and a 25-year resident of Bucks County.

The Nine Unworthies

The post title is a reference to this, by the way…

We know that the Senate was not able to muster 60 votes in order to debate the Iraq war on Saturday (I’ll be in catch-up mode for a little while here, by the way), coming four short with 56 for and 34 against. And I think the following Repugs deserve credit for now since they sided with the Democratic majority on this vote…

John Warner (VA)
Arlen Specter (PA)
Chuck Hagel (NE)
Gordon Smith (OR)
Norm Coleman (MN)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Susan Collins (ME)
And by the way, the fact that Coleman has come around on the war is a big reason to me why Al Franken may have a tougher time running against Coleman than he thinks, though there is plenty in Coleman’s part service in the Senate for which he needs to make an accounting, if he can.

Also, this quote stood out for me in the Times story…

“The American people can see what is happening here,” said Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. “They know that some want to prevent a vote at all costs.”
I never thought I’d give Ben Nelson credit for anything, but good for him for doing the right thing for a change.

And of course, we have McConnell and Huckleberry Graham on the other side trying to goad the Democrats into a vote against the surge that cuts off funding to our troops currently deployed so they can make political hay out of it.

Not that I take any of these so-called journalistic geniuses from the Beltway seriously anyway, but I honestly wish someone would remember this moment from Graham the next time he is anointed as some kind of a “moderate” from the Matthews/Russert faction.

So who exactly are the nine senators who thought it was more important to avoid this Senate vote on the war than stand up and make an accounting of themselves for it one way or the other? They would be as follows (from a Washington Post story)…

The Republican senators aside from (John) McCain, (Jon) Kyl and (Bob) Corker who were absent yesterday were Robert F. Bennett (Utah), Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), John Ensign (Nev.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
Now it’s true that Kyl and Corker flew to Iraq, but they were scheduled to do so with Bob Casey and Max Baucus; Casey and Baucus opted instead to stay behind for the vote, while Corker and Kyl left. And as we know, McCain was too busy trying to suck up to the wingnuts to do his Senatorial duty.

One more thing: as the Post story also notes, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) voted with Republicans. I know that isn’t surprising, but I’m just noting it “for the official record.”